The Love of the Lord – Psalm 118:1-7

The Love Of God Is Forevermore

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.

God is Good

God is immutable – He cannot change.  His steadfast character is one of the many reasons that we can praise Him:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

God showers us with His goodness.  He does not withhold His goodness, but lovingly showers all of us with His mercy and grace:

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

God is good because He can be nothing else.  Men look upon God with the imperfect lens of their experience, tainted by sin, with hearts hardened by trials, and question the goodness of God.  Yet God still is good, regardless of our circumstances.  If we look at God through the lens of pain and suffering, we are likely to see something that is not correct.  Pain blinds us to the true nature of God.  We must remember that God sees everything clearly and with the proper perspective, while we see through a glass darkly.

Love of the Lord

The author of this psalm tells us three times in row that God’s love endures forever.  We can be assured of that because God is good, God is love, God is eternal, and God never changes:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

God lavishes His love upon everyone on the earth.  He provides all of us with breath in our lungs.  He does not withhold the rain or the sun from us (although the clouds might seem to do that…).  God pours out from His very nature a level of love, provision, and care that none of us would ever be able to do in His place.  God is so other-focused, that it would be impossible for Him to do otherwise.  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to be a sacrifice for us.  Dying for someone is the ultimate expression of love.  And God so loved us, that He died for us while we were still sinners, in full rebellion against Him.  God’s love, if we can truly see even a fraction of it, is beautiful beyond description.

Royal Refuge

God hears our cries for hope.  All who trust in Him will find refuge under His mighty arms and in His character.  God is our shield:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

God is our refuge and our strength.  He knows our difficulties, and invites us to come in to Him and allow Him to be our protector and shield.  He is able to shelter us through our storm.  He does not always make the storm cease, but rather is with us, protecting us, as the storm batters us and tears at us, trying to cause us to lose hope.  But God is able to calm the storm, and see us through any difficulty.  Even when God is disciplining us severely, He will provide a way to shelter us:

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

God’s refuge may seem odd, and may even cause us some distress, but God protects us in a fashion that brings the maximum glory to His name.  He will use everything that He does to bring glory and honor to Himself, which He rightly deserves.

Powerful Protection

God is sovereign over all.  No one and nothing can happen to us that He does not have the final authority to approve or veto.  We can see this throughout His holy word.  One of the best illustrations of this can be seen in the life of Job.  Satan, who was required to give an accounting of himself before Almighty God, had to request the permission before he could ever touch Job, his family, or the possessions provided to him by God.  There is nothing that happens to us that God has not sovereignly pre-approved.  God provides protection from men, from nature, and from demonic forces as He sees fit.  Anything that happens to us has been sovereignly approved, and God will protect us through it.

Total Triumph

In all of our trials, God is the one who makes us victorious.  God is our helper and our friend.  He will cause our righteousness to shine forth like the sun.  God will give us victory over our enemies, and exalt Himself through us while He brings shame upon those who would oppose Him, His plans, and His people.  God will give us victory, for we have victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  No weapon formed against us shall prosper.  God will provide for our every need.  And even if we are to be martyrs – witnesses unto death – God provides for us in that in Him, when we are absent from the body, we are present from the Lord.  And once all is completed, we will live triumphantly in joy, with no more pain or tears, to always be in the presence of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I remember the steadfast love of Lord when I am in the midst of my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You lavish Your love upon me every second of every day.  Help me to find strength in my joy in You.  Every morning Your mercies renew, and they humble me before You.  Grant me Your protection through my trials.  Provide for me as many years of gladness as You have given me in sorrow.  Help me to humble myself before You, and I pray that You would lift my head up.  You have already given me victory over the strongest enemy of my soul – the drowning chains of sin.  Father, help me to always praise You, for Your character is steady and displays Your love constantly and consistently.  Help me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  Lift my soul out of sorrow, and grant me eyes to see the wonders that You are doing even now, preparing for a day of miracles that surround me each and every moment.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 2:2-6

God Approves Of Walls Built To Establish The Sovereignty Of Nations

2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

A Terrifying Truth

At that time in history, no one dared enter the king’s presence with a sad face.  Everyone was required to smile.  To do otherwise could possibly result in a person’s immediate and very public execution.  God had placed Nehemiah in his position in the king’s service to further His purposes.  He has done this with many others, including Joseph, Daniel, and Esther, to name a few.  Even though Nehemiah tried, he could not hide his distress from the king.

Facing Fear

Over three hundred and sixty times in the Bible, God’s people are told, with differing words and the same message, “fear not”.  Nehemiah had just heard from Hanani, one of his brothers, that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates were burned by fire.  Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king.  He had immediate access to the highest human authority in the land.  God was placing a very heavy burden upon Nehemiah’s heart.  It so distressed him that he had sat down and wept, then mourned, fasted, and prayed to God for days.

So when the king noticed Nehemiah’s glum appearance and brought it to his attention, Nehemiah faced his fear and told the king of the burden that he felt upon his shoulders and his heart.  It should be noted that just prior to telling the king everything that was on his heart, the Bible records that Nehemiah prayed.  This is a great pattern for all of us to follow.  When we have fear in our hearts, our first (not last!) resort should be to consult and petition the highest authority possible – The Lord God Almighty.  We should do this even (and especially) when faced with the possibility of certain death, for this is the correct path to follow.

A Royal Request

Nehemiah, burdened by God with crushed heart concerning the situation that his people found themselves in concerning the land which God had sovereignly gave to them after the Exodus from Egypt, prayed to God and asked the king for a personal leave of absence to go to Jerusalem, his homeland, to rebuild the wall.

Not only did he request the time from the king, the Bible shows us that he was even more bold.  He had asked for the king to give him letters of passage across all of his lands so that no one would stop him or impede his progress – he needed safe passage.  He also asked the king to provide him, from the royal park, the necessary timber to both rebuild the gates of the city as well as the house that he would need to build once he arrived to stay in.  Now that takes courage!

Granted by God

Nehemiah notes that the gracious hand of his God was upon him.  And he was absolutely correct. Not only did king Artaxerxes provide him with the time off, lumber, and letters of safe passage, God sovereignly placed it upon the king’s heart to provide Nehemiah with a royal escort – something Nehemiah had not asked for.  This would absolutely guarantee that everyone would believe and comply with all of the requests that Nehemiah would make of them on behalf of the king through his written orders.

When we are burdened by God to do something, God will absolutely ensure that we have everything that we need to do what He has sovereignly assigned for us to do.  And sometimes when we forget to ask for something that is critical to our mission, God will provide what is necessary to ensure that His will is accomplished.

And in this case, God sovereignly approved of a wall that established as sovereign the city of Jerusalem.  God approves of national borders, and the right of nations to determine who is permitted to enter their sovereign soil.  If God believed that everyone should have the right to enter any place on Earth anytime they wanted to, He would have stopped Nehemiah in his quest to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Those who believe God and His Son, and whose faith is credited as righteousness, should take careful note of God’s view on the sovereignty of nations and His approval of walls to regulate the flow of people into their lands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with certain danger, what is the first thing that I do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is nothing that surprises You.  You are the one who sets up kings and rulers in authority.  All authority in Heaven and on Earth is Yours and Yours alone to delegate to whomever You choose.  Grant my heart wisdom and discernment as I read Your word so that I would know and understand Your position on national sovereignty.  Help me to reconcile any thoughts, attitudes, or opinions that differ from Your thoughts, attitudes, and opinions.  Help me to align my heart to Yours, and to accept, regardless of how I feel, that Your ways are above my ways, and Your thoughts are above my thoughts.  Father, I do not have the proper perspective of seeing the end from the beginning, nor knowing the disposition of every bit of matter in the universe at any point in time.  Help me to accept what I don’t understand, and give me peace in my heart when You do not desire to provide me with answers so that my heart may be at peace when my emotions are trying to overrule Your divinely inspired word.  Thank You Father for all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Courage from God – Esther 4:12-16

And If I Perish, I Perish

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Powerful Privilege

Queen Esther had overcome, beyond even her own expectations, to win the heart of the king, and become queen.  She held great sway over the king, for she had stolen his heart.  The words of her uncle, Mordecai, must have seemed bitter, for he assured her that in the light of the decree of Haman, the Agagite, that the Jews were to be destroyed, that she and her family would also be utterly destroyed.  Power and privilege are of no use when you have already received your death penalty notice.

Destined for Deliverance

But God had placed Esther in a position of high authority to be used by Him to save His people.  God cannot ignore His covenants, and He had promised Abraham that his seed would be as many as the stars in the sky.  God would certainly keep His promise, even if Esther, her father’s family, and all people of Hebrew descent that were found through Haman’s decree, approved by the king, killed every Jew they could find.  God always has a remnant.  And God would raise up someone else to deliver His people.

When we fail to do what God has prepared for us to do, God has a backup plan, and a backup plan for that.  But He knows exactly how we will react, and what we will do, for He has seen the end from the beginning.  Like taking a snapshot of a battlefield, and carefully watching how everything plays out, God already knows what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will do it.  He has already planned for every contingency.

Powerful Preparation

And Esther, in preparation for her role to intercede on behalf of her people by approaching the king, was taking a very great risk.  Anyone who approached the king unbidden who was not then approved by the king would be put to death.  Esther recognized the danger to her life, and took the necessary precautions that she knew to take:  She had Mordecai tell the people to humble themselves with fasting and prayer on her behalf, when she did as well.  And in humbling herself before the Lord, He would lift up her head.

Capable Courage

It takes great courage to face death head on, doing what is right, unsure of the outcome.  Esther modeled courage for us, and resigned herself in trust to the One who can be trusted in all things to help the helpless.  Her response to Mordecai of “and if I perish, I perish” should be the cry of our hearts as well when faced with any difficulty.  Courage is the ultimate test and show of our faith.  We can be courageous, because we believe that God is completely and totally trustworthy, both in life and in death.

Total Trust

We are to trust that the King of kings and Lord of lords will work out everything to His glory and deliver us in life, and if not life, in death.  We need to take heart and trust God, for in all things, god can be trusted.  Knowing in our hearts that God can be trusted and then acting on it is the ultimate test of faith, and shows courage.  We need to be courageous in all that we do, operating without fear, so that the enemies of God will be afraid, knowing that our conviction in the truth is unshakeable because God is who He says He is, and will bear us up no matter the circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with difficulty, possibly even death, do we respond with courage born by trust in God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You gave Your One and Only Son the courage to face the cross of crucifixion for us.  You have, throughout Your word, shown Yourself to be faithful and true in all things.  Give me courage today to do what is right, especially in the face of opposition that threatens to destroy my reputation, career, family, and especially my life.  Help me to overcome all resistance by remembering Your faithfulness.  And help me to continue to be faithful, even if it means that I go to my death, for You will resurrect me as You have Your Son.  Help me to do all that You desire me to do, in life even to the point of death, that I may hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?